Family vacations are the rich soil of lifelong memories. They’re snapshots of love in my mind: burying a “treasure” on a beach in Minnesota with my dad, collecting seashells with Nana, being attacked by voracious mosquitoes in our family’s cabin at night, playing board games and cooking (a.k.a. burning) potatoes on the stove. We want these same sort of rich memories for our kids! So recently my husband and I packed up the car for our first “big” family vacation: New England.
Road trips can be a real bear with little kids, so I want to share with you one “tip” that was a lifesaver for us: road food. (Check it out on my links!) We knew we’d have to divide our car trip into several days since our two year-old was tagging along, so my husband sat down with the great off-the-beaten-path restaurant tips from the Sterns (who’ve authored the book Road Food, share ideas on their web site, and are regular guests on NPR’s “The Splendid Table.”) He meticulously planned out the trip around restaurants! Our much-needed breaks from the car weren’t at creepy rest areas – they ended up being the soul of our trip! We ate buffalo wings at the original Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York; we had Johnnycakes in a roadside diner in Rhode Island; we ate mozzarella sticks you could die for at an old A-frame dive that looked like a misplaced ski lodge on the coast on Connecticut; we devoured greasy Philly cheesesteaks from one of the several restaurants that claim to have created them.
And our little guy loved every minute of it. Sure, hours in the car got long (and weepy at times), but the adventure of all the surprising stops along the way made the dull parts of the drive endurable for all of us.
Normally I wouldn’t advise planning your life around food, but when it comes to surviving family car trips, amazing or unusual calories can be lifesavers…and can pack your trip full of memorable moments.